Two expansion teams got a big assist when others' protected lists were 'leaked'

BASEBALL

November 22, 1992|By JIM HENNEMAN

When the supposedly confidential protected lists for last week's expansion draft leaked out, there was considerable consternation among some baseball officials.

But it didn't take long for the initial outrage to settle to relative calm. "Everything else eventually comes out -- why did they think this would be any different?" said one club official. "Players' salaries become public knowledge before the ink is dry on the contracts."

Most teams preferred that the lists be kept secret because they would rather not offend players who were unprotected. But with players being cast aside faster than teams can say "we won't offer arbitration," not many egos are left unbruised.

The complete list of the 390 players protected by the 26 teams was known by only three sources -- the commissioner's office and the two new teams, the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins. "The only list we had access to was our own," said Orioles general manager Roland Hemond. "We submitted it to the commissioner's office and then the list of all 26 teams was forwarded to the expansion teams."

Anybody in the commissioner's office with access to the lists became an immediate suspect when veteran baseball writer Jerome Holtzman revealed the entire list in the Chicago Tribune. Tracy Ringolsby of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, who has a vast baseball underground network, also secured the list.

Whether Holtzman and Ringolsby had the same source isn't known -- that kind of information is obviously more closely guarded than the lists themselves. But the leaks did lead to speculation among baseball people, resulting in two prominent theories, at least one of which makes sense.

"It wouldn't surprise me if there was somebody out there who could crack the computer code," said a former big-league coach who is now scouting for an American League team. "You never know, some Rotisserie League fanatic out there might have figured it out."

A more plausible reason was offered by a high-ranking official of another major-league team. "It was definitely to the benefit of those [expansion] teams for the lists to become public knowledge," he said without directly accusing either Colorado or Florida of the leak.

"If they wanted to make trades, which they did, it makes sense that they would want other clubs to know what was available. I'm sure that other teams knowing what was out there helped them start some trade talks.

"Obviously there were some trades in place -- and the only way that could happen was for teams to know that certain players were available," said the official.

"I didn't think of it in that regard," said Orioles assistant general manager Doug Melvin. "But it does make sense that the new teams would want that information known. It had to help them initiate some trade talks."

Yankees ready to spend?

Supposedly, no team took a harder hit in the expansion draft than the New York Yankees. But as deep as that organization is, you have to wonder how close it is to serious contention without a heavy investment in the free-agent market.

The Yankees went into the expansion draft with a protected list that exposed the whole left side of their infield, the catching position -- and didn't include their top RBI man (Danny Tartabull) or closer (Steve Farr).

The Yankees reportedly intended to leave Tartabull available for all three rounds. But when third baseman Charlie Hayes was taken on the first round, the Yankees are believed to have pulled back Tartabull, Farr and shortstop Randy Velarde, fearful that they could suddenly be decimated at the big-league level while trying to protect prospects. They had already traded center fielder Roberto Kelly and let Mel Hall cross the Pacific Ocean to Japan. They were faced with the possibility of looking more like the Columbus Clippers than the New York Yankees next year.

Without Hayes, they are back to square one at third base, with Hensley Meulens, a perennial prospect who has failed before, the primary candidate. That has triggered rumors the Yankees will go free-agent fishing for the Boston Red Sox's Wade Boggs, or consider bringing back Mike Pagliarulo, who spent the last two years with the Twins.

Regardless of which direction they take, the Yankees have a lot of holes to plug and that wealth of minor-league talent may be called on sooner than expected.

Major talent

They've been saying for the last two years that the minor-league system of the Toronto Blue Jays isn't as productive as it used to be. Don't bet on it.

You certainly couldn't prove it by what has transpired lately. The second player picked in the first round of the expansion draft was Nigel Wilson, who not only is a product of the Toronto system, but a Canadian to boot. He is also considered the best long-range prospect available.

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